Thursday, December 8, 2016

Still in Style amid the Struggle

While the spotlight hovered around Vice President Leni Robredo’s who bared her disappointment over the President’s reckless communication of his directives, another woman is “still processing" the impact of the same brash action. But like any independent woman, she holds onto her mandate.

Patricia Licuanan, the head of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) also received a text message from the Cabinet Secretary, who conveyed President Rodrigo Duterte’s order for her to stop attending the Cabinet meetings. But unlike the Vice President, the CHED Chair chose to deal with the situation with her signature grace. No screenshot of the message was ever publicised, except for a succinct statement that she would “comply” and continue with her work. 

Tatti was appointed to her post by former President Benigno Simeon Aquino. Her acceptance of the CHED chairship ended her stint as the President of Miriam College. What is not commonly known is that this has left another vacuum within the social movements. There is more behind the woman with a coiffed hair. 

Aside from being an educator, Tatti has been a feminist-activist. The woman who has been living in a gated community delivered some significant progress in our international human rights standards that we now enjoy. It was under Tatti’s leadership as Chair of the Main Committee of the 4th World Conference on Women’s Rights in 1994, that the Beijing Platform for Action (BPFA) was born. 

The BPFA is one of the bibles which feminists across generations have been using in our advocacies, along with the the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), among others. The BPFA highlighted the areas where women’s exercise of human rights has been quite challenging. These areas include the women’s experience of violence within marriage and family life, access to income and other forms of capital, experience of armed conflict, representation in the media, and political leadership. 

Because of the BPFA, the reality of the girl child was recognised for the first time since women across the world organised themselves and engaged the United Nations. This was not easy advocacy in the 1990s. It was part of the conversation about women’s bodies, a subject that remains thorny especially among the right-wing conservatives, including the Catholic church to this day. We owe Tatti and other feminist-activists in the 1990s the International Day of the Girl Child. 

The feminist-activist in Tatti may not be obvious because of her class origins. But she is gifted with the powerful combination of the strong conviction on women’s human rights and sincere diplomacy. I was in my early 20s, working in a migration-focused NGO when I first met her. It was a meeting in a small NGO which barely had the budget to serve merienda to its guests. Tatti dressed simply but her gait, poise and Taglish language suggested a breeding that is capable of empathy and flexibility. She could withstand an impassioned but crude criticisms and still walk out of the room like a queen. 

Another meeting was held, this time in her office. Most participants arrived almost an hour late, given the difficulty in commuting within the Katipunan area. She could have left me and another early bird on our own or ask her staff to entertain us but the president of one of the country's most exclusive schools chose to wait with us. It was not unusual to see her in a crowd of women community leaders and NGO workers in gathering such as those on the reproductive health bill. 

She has never denied her class origins. Neither has she let it prevent her from engaging diverse stakeholders. Instead Tatti has shared her power with those who have less. Fifteen years since the BPFA, Tatti was quite instrumental in enabling women from Asia-Pacific to organise around Beijing+15. At a time when resources for women’s rights organisations started to dwindle, she opened the grounds of Miriam College and mobilised both teaching and non-teaching personnel for this regional gathering. The rich conversations from this process was not only critical to feminists movements which survive because of robust and evolving analyses and practices. It also enabled younger women to partake in these conversations. 
Tatti is happy when she sees younger women in a room, especially when they ask intelligent and  challenging questions. Perhaps these moments reassure her that there are people who could continue the work of older women, who have gone through protracted struggles over their identities, bodies, mobility and rights. And it is the power to make these moments possible that keeps her working. 

Because being a feminist educator is more than a job. It is an advocacy that must be pursued deliberately but delicately in the most trying times.

Photo by the United Nations

Friday, July 15, 2016

Untitled (tatlo, apat na linggo)

tatlo, apat na linggo,
panibagong pagbibilang,
aking tanong, "kailan ka ulit dadalaw?"

tatlo, apat na linggo:
panibagong karamdaman sa katawan,
muling wika, "hanggang sa susunod na buwan."

isang walang patid na pananabik
sa 'di komportableng init.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Dit le couleur

From Wikimedia Commons
teal on monday, blue on tuesday

it was one of those days
ordinary, if not morose
bracing for so much straining
over sometimes fastidious,
sometimes flamboyant 
yet still short of the sonorous

sound —

same that keeps the eyes alert
over the borders of his mouth:
will we see a few teeth?
— été, était, peut-être, 
a glimpse of the tongue?
— donc, longue, drôle
or the almost there kiss?
— vous, plus, tu

sight —

taking note of the senses of a word
comment ca va?
one moment all is lost
like a white flash that slipped
behind your back. 

i was lost in translation.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Settling Spouse

A pail of beer bottles becomes a harbinger:
A rare intimacy with a has-been rocker,
The heavy weight pinning me down on the soft earth,
As if all is well with being tied up with the hearth.

Do this. Pass that. Not there! He says with sternness.
So raw the voice of my lover in our own nest!
But through secret glances: who are you? I mutter.
Is this the ransom I asked time to surrender?

1 June 2016, Cordova, Cebu

Saturday, December 19, 2015


An erratic weather could not deter:
Budding, fleeting pleasure of a skewer,
No, no, not with last night's Burgundy wine,
But maybe the blood spurt of the first time.

Aside he casts doubts about her hide,
Finally engaging the evening tide:
Unwrapping himself from Chieng Dao's thick sheet,
Descending to discover gutts and grit.

Behold a child's eyes in an old virgin:
A surrender that warms up his tough skin,
A heart apounding thawing his sinews,
A woman who never forgets her dues.

Then he finds his way into her cavern.
With certainty, the bodies arch and burn.
Losing herself fills her empty chalice,
And he a boy, re-learning his first kiss.

Bangkok, 20 December 2015

Saturday, November 21, 2015

The Mine Manager

Despite another mile of toil up to her hearth,
Quite madly he drilled miles deeper into the earth,
Manufacturing mistakes beyond the ore’s line,
Indeed exceeding the limit of time and mine.

Then the accused workers for stealing stones “got bust”
The fake hard rocks crumbled fast to worthless dust.
Why not? The cavernous mountain had long been barren.
Traces of rivers dried up in winter were sunken.

So desperate was the whip the master unleashed.
Abraded skin, that resplendent rubies peeked,
Until the flesh beckoned and turned into pit,
Until the horse bearing his weight pranced and shrieked.

Laying down — her back writhing, limbs unfelt, eyes shut —
She drowned in slumber, a rarity in her hut.
Like other battered bodies and shaken spirits,
Never bending, never kneeling to dreadful dicks.

Meanwhile, the master, Madame Defarge and her whores —
Boldly feasted on the virgins’ blood and labours,
A post-revolution moment - fragile, fleeting,
Bacchus himself left an invitation hanging.

Hopeless it seemed, all omens foretold unfolding.
But no! Fate made her move, with the ground opening.
Amid the dirt, boulders of diamonds shone through,
On their bellies, with outstretched hands, disaster brewed.

As broken spirits floated away in their dreams,
The cavern’s roof just gave way to the bright hell’s beams.
As the dregs’ fingers touched the surface of the stones,
Maddened earth overtook time to devour their bones.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Refined Thoughts of a Raging Mind

Note: This will be an evolving blog post, an exercise of a perceptive mind, that is a mind surrounded by "performances" which necessarily come with a post-industrial world, "performances" which sadly pervade even the spaces of freedom we hold dear. It is evolving as an anti-dote for treating the waste of a daily grind and liberating language from gutter-like conversations. Image from Wikimedia Commons, a painting of John William Waterhouse - Miranda and the Tempest

Vaginas fall in line for Cardinal.
Willing to kneel before his tyrant dick
Them who accommodate all his ring's pique
Never minding King Loius' notes verbale.  - 2 March 2016 

When the Mayflower sailed through the storm,
Pilgrims high and low vowed a new norm.
The sermons began with the tempest ---
When the heavens punished the souls' unrest.

But dedication turns into rage:
Women who read were thrown and tied at stake,
Hells' gate beckoned at Plymouth's shores.
Smith's mistress spat at the women's chores.
- 18 January 2016

Flipping pans to play with butter and fire 
Two farmer’s eggs subjected to the whip 
All with grace: served on a ceramic plate
Turned in by Julia Child with her pearls
A smudge there all across America could see
A glorious scrambled egg, all she cares.

But flipping scores over results undesired
— A judge asking for another trial and jury
Evidence was just too short for conviction
But when one jury penned a damning dissent
All glorious heavens unleash into hell
Crucifying the just, crowning the wanted.
- 19 November 2015

These days I think of myself as Jean Valjean, an escape artist on the path of evolution. Haunted though I maybe by Javert, I would never have to feel purposeless nor jump into the abyss of death. Instead I am hopeful that his suicidal future would mean one less scumbag soul on the face of the planet. So carry on with the evolution. Revolution will be upon us. 
- 17 November 2015